Workplace hearing loss is one of the most common injuries reported amongst workers. So, what causes hearing loss and how can employers work to reduce the possibility of their workforce being affected?
What causes hearing loss?
Exposure to loud noise can cause the hair cells of the inner ear to collapse and flatten temporarily, resulting in deafness. This may be temporary or permanent, depending on the noise level and length of exposure.
Repeated over a number of years the hair cells within the inner ear can become permanently damaged resulting in a permanent loss of hearing.
Sometime immediate hearing loss can occur if an employee is exposed to a high and intense sound such as an explosion or gunshot. This is known as acoustic trauma and can perforate the eardrum, resulting in los of hearing.
Workplace hearing loss prevention
Perhaps strangely, most issues with workplace hearing loss affect those who are mainly within moderate rather than high level noise environments. This is generally because moderate noise levels can be tolerated for longer without realising the damaging effects that are taking place.
Top line steps to help avoid workplace hearing loss include –
- Educating and training employees to ensure each individual is aware of noise related risks
- Providing your workers with appropriate personal hearing protective equipment
- Encouraging & enforcing employees to comply with wearing personal hearing protective equipment
Manage risk at source
Perhaps the best way to begin to avoid issues of workplace hearing loss is to attempt to manage the risk at source. When purchasing machinery that will emit a high level of noise it’s important that businesses understand what the potential impact may be on workers prior to installation. The necessary procedures should then be put in place to help to keep employees safe. These may include –
- Installing noisy machinery in areas where the will be the fewest number of workers present
- Install machinery within a sound insulating enclosure to limit level of noise pollution with the workplace
- Install noise-dampening materials on areas of machinery where possible
- Reduce exposure to noise levels by job rotation or providing a noise refuge
There are a number of signs to look out for if you suspect that you may have been exposed to hazardous noise. These include –
- A ringing or buzzing in your ears after exposure to noise
- You can hear people talking to struggle to hear the specifics of the conversation or dialogue
- Your ears feel full or heavy after leaving a particularly noisy area
Although hearing loss can occur from everyday activities, employers have to ensure that every possible precaution is taken to protect employees from workplace hearing loss. To find out how Safety Forward might be able to help your business call us now on 01543 509 074